School places in Manchester are ‘under pressure’ with secondary school places ‘tight’, council admits

The council is proposing a new policy for the applications process which it hopes will help.

School places in Manchester are increasingly ‘under pressure’ as the city grows – but a new policy is set to make the application process easier.

Secondary school places are ‘tight’ across the city, with particular problems in Wythenshawe following the closure of a school which is now set to reopen. Manchester City Council has also been struggling to find ‘the right’ school places for pupils in the north of the city where a new school is set to open in 2027.

Areas around the city centre are under particular pressure too, according to councillors who have raised concerns about the impact of new developments. Almost 1 in 10 children starting year 7 do not get a place offered in their first, second or third preference schools – although 99 pc of pupils in reception do.

However, a change to the admissions policy which has been proposed for the 2024/25 year onwards could make the application process easier for parents.

What is the proposal to change the application policy?

Currently, parents have to reapply every term if they are not offered a place in their preferred school, but if the proposed changes are approved, they would only have to apply once and will stay on the waiting list for the rest of the year. A formal consultation on changing the admissions arrangements for schools from 2024 will commence on 31 October.

Labour councillor Garry Bridges, who is the executive member for early years, children and young people at Manchester City Council, said people will be pleased.

Coun Garry Bridges
Coun Garry Bridges
Coun Garry Bridges

He said: “Parents find it a bit annoying to have to do it every term and it costs staff a lot of time to keep doing it as well so it makes no sense really.”

Nevertheless, the Old Moat councillor said the local authority has been struggling to accommodate pupils in appropriate schools across the city.

Primary schools throughout the city have been expanded over recent years and this is now having an impact on demand for secondary school places. Neighbouring local authorities have also reduced the number of children they are accepting from Manchester due to increased demand in their own areas, including from refugees arriving from Hong Kong, Ukraine and Afghanistan.

Which schools have been experiencing problems and which new schools are being built?

The closure of Newall Green High School in August 2021 meant that finding places for year 7s in Wythenshawe were ‘very tight’ for this academic year. The school is now set to reopen in 2023 under the Dixons Academies Trust.

The Dean Trust is also due to open a new school in Newton Heath in 2027. And a new secondary school for students with special needs is now planned in Miles Platting, with 150 places expected to be created by 2025, if approved.

However, speaking at a scrutiny meeting earlier this month, Ardwick councillor Amna Saad Omar Abdullatif said pressure from the city centre is spreading.

She said: “It just seems like we’re seeing more and more being built and we know that the schools are all at capacity and it’s just a big problem when we’re seeing the increase in development across the city centre and the surrounding areas that I just think we need to be reflecting a little more about.”

What are the plans for the city centre?

Education director Amanda Corcoran told the children and young people scrutiny committee that new schools are planned around the city centre. This includes a new primary school planned in Crown Street near Deansgate.

The council’s education department is also in talks about opening schools within the Victoria North development where 15,000 homes are planned.